Oil industry giants like BP will push the planet’s climate way past 1.5ºC of global heating

Oil companies like BP are spending billions drilling for oil that, if burned, will heat the planet by way more than the "safe" 1.5ºC target agreed at the 2015 Paris climate summit. They think carbon capture technologies and billions of trees will clean up their mess. But this won't work.


Climate change is already creating out-of-control floods and wildfires, and unbearable heatwaves all around the world. Australia has been on fire for the last four months. Before that it was the Amazon. Before that, California. And the climate has only warmed by 0.8ºC so far.

There is a plan to try to stop the climate warming beyond 1.5ºC – the target set up by the 2015 Paris agreement, which nearly all nations support. But even this level of warming will still cause damage. This is why it’s such an important goal. 

BP plans to spend $71 billion on new oil and gas in the next decade. This is totally incompatible with staying within 1.5ºC of warming. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) say that the 1.5ºC goal is “slipping out of reach” unless emissions from burning fossil fuels are rapidly reduced, starting now. 

But oil companies are still planning on spending billions on drilling for new oil and gas over the next decade, when most people now know that the next decade is crucial to stop climate change. This was made clear in late 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their report on the Paris agreement’s 1.5ºC target. 

BP believe someone else will clean up their climate mess

BP needs to produce a plan to start phasing down their oil and gas production over the next 10 years. Hey, they could even take those billions and put them into clean energy. Just an idea.

But they’re not. They’re still drilling for new oil, relying on future carbon emissions-capturing technologies – that even after decades of experimentation are still very, very far from being commercially viable – to trap and store their future pollution. They also think that more trees will be planted to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

This is all fantasy planning. Essentially, they think that someone else will clean up their mess.

Meeting the 1.5ºC target means reducing emissions *and* planting trees

While planting more trees could help take some of the carbon out of the atmosphere, a lot of this has already been factored in to the scenarios put together by scientists after the Paris agreement was signed.

And much of the extra land BP assume could be used to plant more trees would have massive negative impacts on food production and human rights. Again, they want other sections of society to have to change, while they just carry on as normal, making a killing out of oil.

The reality is that the whole world – all countries, all companies – have to rapidly reduce emissions at the same time as supporting the re-growth of healthy forests. This has already been agreed.

So why do companies like BP think they can just carry on as before? The answer is probably their belief in carbon capture and storage.

BP’s carbon capture and storage projections are an unrealistic fantasy

To justify their new oil drilling projects, BP and Shell use carbon capture projections from the “Sustainable Development Scenario” from the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

This scenario assumes a level of carbon dioxide removal that even the IPCC and the IEA itself both consider totally unrealistic, as Oil Change International has shown.

The idea of carbon removal technologies is popular with oil companies like BP and Shell because it avoids them having to face the reality that threatens their existence as companies in their current form.

There’s only one way to keep warming from going over 1.5ºC – no more new oil and gas drilling

We have to get on track to reduce carbon emissions now, and that means no more new oil and gas, and making a plan to phase down current oil and gas production.

BP might dream about technology that doesn’t work to suck their pollution out of the sky, and make plans based on someone or other randomly planting billions of trees. But those of us living in the real, rapidly warming world will not give up trying to stop them burning all that oil for profit.

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